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Over and Out: Marines Withdraw From Southern Afghanistan

U.S. and British forces withdrew from the Camp Bastion-Leatherneck complex, a key base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

U.S. Marines prepare to leave upon the end of operations for the Marines and British combat troops in Helmand on Oct. 27, 2014.

A fleet of planes and helicopters airlifted the last U.S. and British forces from a key base in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a day after the international coalition closed the massive facility and handed it over to the Afghan military.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

The troops' withdrawal and base closure in the province of Helmand is one of the largest operations in the winding down of the international combat mission in Afghanistan, 13 years after the toppling of the radical, Islamist Taliban regime.

Image taken on Oct. 26.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

U.S. Marines stand at attention during a handover ceremony on Oct. 26.

The NATO-led international force is now shifting to a reduced role of support as Afghanistan's newly trained army and police take over the fight against a resurgent Taliban.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

U.S. Marine troops play basketball at Camp Bastion on Oct. 25.

Monday's withdrawal operation passed off peacefully as part of a planned drawdown.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

U.S. troops load gear on an airplane on Oct. 25.

The withdrawal of the remaining U.S. and British troops from the combined base of Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion was carried out over 24 hours of near-continuous flights back and forth between Helmand and Kandahar Air Field, the aviation hub for southern Afghanistan.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

US Marines play a game of cards on Oct. 25.

Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck alone once had some 40,000 military personnel and civilian contractors as the regional headquarters for the U.S.-led international military coalition.

Wakil Kohsar / AFP

U.S. Marines rest on Oct. 26.

For the U.S. Marines and British forces leaving Helmand, the airlift was the first stop on the way home – all of them will be flown out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, and some within days.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

A U.S. Marine carries drinking water on Oct. 25.

Helmand was a major focus of a 2010 troop surge to wrest control back from the Taliban. At its height, the NATO-led force had some 140,000 military personnel from nearly 50 nations.

Omar Sobhani / X02487

A US Marine soldier sits in an airplane on Oct. 26.

The Marine Expeditionary Force-Afghanistan is the last Marines unit in the country, while the British forces at Helmand were the country's final combat troops.

Wakil Kohsar / AFP

U.S. Marines board a plane on Oct. 26.

Staff Sergeant Kenneth Oswood, of Romney, West Virginia, is one of the few members of the squadron who participated in both the Iraq withdrawal and Monday's Helmand airlift.

"It's a lot different this time .... Closing out Iraq, when we got there, we were told there hadn't been a shot fired in anger at us in years. And then you come here and they are still shooting at us," Oswood said.

"It's almost like it's not over here, and we're just kind of handing it over to someone else to fight."

— Reuters

Omar Sobhani / X02487